Scotland politics

More gritters in place, minister Keith Brown tells MSPs

Extra gritters and additional road salt have been put in place to help tackle severe winter weather this year, the transport minister has said.

During a Holyrood debate, Keith Brown gave details of the Scottish government's preparation for heavy snow and harsh conditions.

Politicians are keen to avoid a repeat of last year's chaos.

During December major routes were gridlocked and the Army was called to dig out parts of the capital.

Mr Brown's predecessor Stewart Stevenson resigned from his post amidst complaints the government had not managed the situation well.

MSPs were told by Mr Brown that while winter "should come as no surprise", extra precautions were in place.

He said: "Transport Scotland has prepared for the coming winter with additional equipment and improved information for people who are on the move.

"From November 1, 23 additional gritters will patrol the most strategically important routes ahead of, and during, the morning peak when there is risk of snow and ice, and adding to our ploughing capability during snowstorms."

Other equipment includes snowblowers, ploughs and salt.

By 1 November, there will be more salt stocked in Scotland than what was used during the whole of last winter.

Mr Brown said work has been carried out to ensure better communication between public services and HGV drivers, given the number of jack-knifed lorries blocking routes last year.

An extra £2.2m has been invested by train company First ScotRail to improve stock to cope with unusually cold weather.

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: "The images of last winter remain vivid for many people across Scotland.

"Long queues of cars frozen on the M8, lorries jack-knifed across major roads and commuters waiting on railway platforms unsure of whether or not they will be able to travel."

He welcomed efforts to better prepare for severe weather, but added: "If things go wrong, there is little merit in blaming someone else. The buck stops with ministers."

Conservative transport spokesman Jackson Carlaw said there had been a rush to blame Mr Stevenson last winter.

He added: "I think the public, frankly, were bewildered that when they were stuck on roads unable to get home, the first priority of politicians at the time did not seem to be how to get them home, but which minister to blame for the fact they hadn't got home.

"I think that what's important this winter is that if we do find ourselves faced with severe weather, the public have access to information which carries an authority with it so that they know that if they are being told not to travel, it means precisely that."

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